“Holy mothership!” Holly shouted. “That is hot! Why is my tongue burning?”
“That is the capsaicin,” Sybil said.
“As in pepper spray? Why did you feed me pepper spray, I said I was not feeling well today. You’ll burn a hole in me.”
“Nonsense,” Sybil said. “It is just cayenne, Capsicum annuum. The stimulation from the heat is a great way to heal your digestive system, not to mention treat nerve damage and reduce pain if used on the skin. Mind you don’t get it near the eyes, though. That is something the controllers like to use it for, as you pointed out. Perhaps if they ate the stuff instead of threatening to spray offenders, they would look a little more fit. It burns calories, too.”
Holly laughed. “Seriously?” She looked down at the flecks of red and brown coating her bowl of roasted vegetables. Already her sinuses were loosening and her head provided her a little relief. The effect on her stomach would be unknown for at least an hour. “It does taste nice. Who would have thought something that causes pain could treat it?”
“That is closer to reality than you think. Human bodies need to be stimulated, just like the mind. You need to use your senses. You need to train your nerves. Not everything can be learned through simulation.”
“Is that why you never have me do simulations to learn faster?” Holly asked.
Most people her age were months into simulation training. Every day was the same for them. Wake up, eat, report to their simulation bay, learn, practice, review, assess, eat, go back to their quarters, and sleep. If she had joined engineering, she would be doing the same thing. All of her friends questioned her decision to apprentice with the healer. Even she had questioned it. Why did she always have to do things differently? For once, she should have just fit in with the others. But she had no idea just how different this path would be.
On her first day, she arrived in the former cargo bay and searched for Sybil for half the morning. She panicked and almost decided to run to the controllers and turn herself in for not reporting to the right location for duty. She had failed on her first day. Then Sybil strolled in, hands covered in black smudges, a smudge on her wrinkled cheek to match, and a basketful of plants on her arm.
“Did I miss my simulation today? Am I in the right place?” Holly asked. She was ready to cry.
“You won’t find any simulation down here,” Sybil told her. “There is only one effective way for humans to truly learn, and that is through action, failure, and movement...and maybe a little pain.”
Sitting now with her burning tongue, she realized there was probably more than a little pain involved in learning her new trade. Synapses were really how humans learned, but maybe there were different ways to form those. And maybe some ways were more important than others. For now, Holly felt like she was always guessing and rarely had any answers, though.
“Holly you have learned plenty in your time with me. Do not worry about speed. Concentrate on depth. Learn one new thing at a time. Stick with it for a month or two. Taste it, experiment with it, sniff it every hour, rub it between your fingers, and watch it grow for many days from seed to flower. The plants are not in a hurry. Grow like the plant.”